Alabama mask order extended to December amid COVID-19 spread
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has again extended a statewide face mask order, which was set to expire on Sunday.
Ivey on Thursday announced the Safer at Home order will be extended until Dec. 11 at 5 p.m.
"I'm willing to keep the mask order in place while acknowledging that sooner rather than later it will be up to each of us to do the right thing, regardless of a government mandate or not," Ivey said.
The governor did announce two changes to occupancy rates and business social distancing rules, which will begin on Sunday Nov. 8:
Emergency occupancy rates will be removed for retailers, gyms and fitness
centers, and entertainment venues
USE OF PARTITIONS
An exception to social-distancing rules will be allowed for many businesses—including barber shops, hair salons, gyms, and restaurants—if people are wearing masks and separated by an “impermeable” barrier
When asked Thursday if it was not dangerous to drop occupancy and capacity restrictions as cases begin to rise, and with flu season looming, Ivey said "not if these other precautions are put in place."
"We just have to watch the numbers and do what is practical and reasonable," Ivey said of continuing the mask order. "I understand folks are bone-dead tired of the masks. I understand that. I am, too. But the mask is a minimal ask to keep things safe, keep people employed and keep people working."
Ivey first instituted a masking order beginning on July 16, originally intended to run through July 31.
The order came amid a precipitous mid-summer climb in both COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations that threatened to overwhelm many hospital systems in the state. At least one public health official warned Alabama was heading for a "potential disaster" at the rate cases were rising.
The mask mandate appeared to work, with seven-day averages of new cases nearing 1,900 mid-summer and dropping to under 900 by September.
But numbers in Alabama are beginning to creep up again, albeit at a much slower rate than Alabama saw in mid-July. The rise mirrors an overall increase in case spread across the United States. Public health officials say initial data indicates much of the spread is occurring in rural America, in contrast to the major spread seen early in U.S. urban cores.
By Nov. 4, the seven-day average of new cases per day was 1,105, up from just over 926 a week earlier.
Montgomery County on Thursday marked the fourth highest seven-day new case average, though the county's new case numbers have steadied over the past 10 days after an increase in early October.
The Alabama Department of Public Health has deemed Montgomery County's risk of COVID-19 spread "very high" for at least the past two weeks.
More:Montgomery's COVID-19 risk deemed 'very high' as cases rise
State Health Office Dr. Scott Harris addressed the upcoming holidays, encouraging people to "look for opportunities to do that in a much more safe way."
"If you are in a house with people from other households getting together, try to distance as much as you can. If the weather permits, get outdoors if you can," Harris said. "If you don't feel well, please stay home. Even though we all want to have Thanksgiving, if you have any concerns about your health, it is not the time to get around friends and family."
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Melissa Brown at 334-240-0132 or email@example.com.